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The Great Canoe in the Sky: Starlore and Astronomy of the South Pacific

Popular Science
  • Records the starlore of Maori astronomy, a rich native culture as yet unexamined in a popular science book
  • Combines an anthropological approach with observations drawn from modern science
  • Includes many new astrophotographs by renowned astrophotographer Stephen Chadwick specifically taken to complement the myths discussed

By: Stephen Chadwick(Author), Martin Paviour-Smith(Author)

300 pages, 60 colour & 80 b/w illustrations


Hardback | Dec 2015 | #225833 | ISBN-13: 9783319226224
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 week Details
NHBS Price: £27.99 $36/€31 approx

About this book

Presenting spectacular photographs of astronomical objects of the southern sky, all taken by author Stephen Chadwick, The Great Canoe in the Sky explores what peoples of the South Pacific see when they look up at the heavens and what they have done with this knowledge. From wives killing brothers to emus rising out of the desert and great canoes in the sky, The Great Canoe in the Sky offers the perfect blend of science, tradition and mythology to bring to life the most famous sights in the heavens above the southern hemisphere. The authors place this starlore in the context of contemporary understandings of astronomy. The night sky of southern societies is as rich in culture as it is in stars. Stories, myths and legends based on constellations, heavenly bodies and other night sky phenomena have played a fundamental role in shaping the culture of pre-modern civilizations throughout the world. Such starlore continues to influence societies throughout the Pacific to this day, with cultures throughout the region – from Australia and New Zealand in the south to New Guinea and Micronesia in the north – using traditional cosmology as a means of interpreting various aspects of everyday life.


- Introduction
- The Canoe in the Sky and the Belt of the Hunter
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - the Pleiades and Hyades
- The Flora and Fauna of the Heavens
- Collowgullouric War and the Eta Carina Nebula
- The Garden in the Stars
- Maui's Fishhook and the Scorpion
- Maafu's Sons and the Clouds of Magellan
- The Long Backbone of the Sky - the Milky Way
- The Stingray, Shark and Centaur
- The Rising Emu

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Martin Paviour-Smith is a lecturer in linguistics at Massey University, New Zealand, with a speciality in language and culture in the South Pacific. He has worked and lived with indigenous peoples of the region describing the language and collecting stories and traditions from various cultures. He has a longstanding interest in the stars, particularly in what cultures do with their knowledge of the sky above them. He has published widely in the fields of socio- and applied linguisitics, and in cultural studies.

Stephen Chadwick lectures in astronomy and the philosophy of science at Massey University, New Zealand. He is also an astro-photographer and in 2013 co-authored the Springer-published book Imaging the Southern Sky, which contained over 150 of his astronomical images. His images have also appeared in scholarly scientific journals worldwide (including Keele University's Magellanic Clouds Newsletter and the Journal of the RASNZ) as well as popular astronomy magazines such as Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, the BBC's Sky at Night magazine, Astronomy Now, and The Observatory. They have also appeared on the BBC and NZ television, as well as in national and international newspapers.

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